Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month: What does it mean to be Chicano?

The Chicano movement emerged from people born in the United States under the Mexican culture, but who do not identify themselves as either Mexican or fully American.

A mural depicting Chicano issues
HECTOR MATA/AFP via Getty Images

During Hispanic Heritage Month, many proudly celebrate their culture, diversity and heritage. Others take advantage of this month to highlight their identity, as is the case of Adolfo "Zarco" Guerrero, who reflects on his ethnic identity, which is related to the term "Chicano".

According to Arizona State University Regents Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, the term gives identity to people who do not feel Mexican or American.

Guerrero, known as "Zarco," is originally from Mesa, southeast of Phoenix, and says that since he was a child his father and grandfather instilled in him a love for his Mexican culture, art and traditions. However, his identity expanded as he grew older.

How the term 'Chicano' came to be

The term "Chicano" was born in the mid-1960s as a symbol of civil, labor and cultural rights for Mexican Americans in response to social oppression.

"The phenomenon of Cesar Chavez, the labor leader, came out, in that social movement the word "Chicano" came out," Guerrero said.

Guerrero commented that he became more interested in issues related to social justice and equality during his time in high school.

On the other hand, Professor Vélez-Ibáñez indicated that there was a period when the Chicano movement suffered from social inequality.

"In the schools, they demanded that we only speak English. And for every Spanish word in elementary school, they would hit us with a baseball bat," he said.

It has been of great importance for Guerrero to learn more about his Mexican culture.

"I wanted to go to Mexico and feel that pride I already felt, but I wanted to go to Mexico to learn more," he added.

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